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High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom - Opinions to States on Legislation

Opinions to States on Legislation

The High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom provides technical legal assistance to improve media freedom by working with relevant state bodies to advise on repealing and revising legislation that is outdated or which restricts media freedom. The High Level Panel authors opinions to ensure that new legislation meets international standards related to media freedom and the safety of journalists.

Throughout the first phase of their work the High Level Panel undertook the following technical legal assistance projects, which can be shared publicly:

Examples of previous work

Support to States: Zimbabwe

Review of two proposed Zimbabwean bills focused on media reform following the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. High Level Panel member, Catherine Anite led this work on behalf of the High Level Panel and provided opinions on the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill and the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill. The Zimbabwean parliament gazetted the Zimbabwean Media Commission Bill on 2 April 2021. The government reflected a number of their recommendations from the High Level Panel within the final bill, including recommendations focused on the appointment of experts. The High Level Panel welcome the final bill as it provides the necessary framework for the total repeal of Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom also accepts technical legal assistance requests international organisations. The High Level Panel will review requests against their remit, priorities and commitments. Requests should be sent to the IBAHRI Secretariat.

Support to International Organisations:

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), an independent NGO working on freedom of expression, media documentation and training, presently Co-Chair of the Consultative Network to Media Freedom Coalition, submitted a request to the High Level Panel seeking an opinion on the draft Safety of Journalists bill. The High Level Panel accepted the request and Galina Arapova is leading the drafting the opinion. In June 2021, PPF shared with the good news that the parliament of Sindh province in Pakistan passed the landmark Protection of Journalists and other Media Practitioners Bill 2021. PPF played a leading role in the passage of this Bill, from holding consultations from media and civil society stakeholders, to making concrete recommendations, to lobbying with political and government leaders and finally in producing the final draft of the Pakistan’s national government has also tabled a similar bill in the National Assembly, which is under consideration by its Human Rights Committee. The High Level Panel are now reviewing the bill at the National Assembly as part of this request and will include their comments in the final opinion.’

Amicus Curiae

The High Level Panel of Legal Experts can act as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) in key cases relating to media freedom that fall within the Panel’s remit and expertise. Legal interventions from the High Level Panel provide an opportunity to address systemic interferences with the right to freedom of expression and media freedom.

Expert Intervention - The Inter-American Court of Human Rights:

Following a request, the High Level Panel constituted a working group that drafted an amicus brief in a landmark media freedom case, of Emilio Palacio Urrutia and Others v. The Republic of Ecuador, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The case concerns the lawfulness of criminal defamation statutes as applied to El Universo, one of Ecuador’s most well-established and widely circulated newspapers, its columnist, and its three directors. The case gives rise to issues which fall squarely within the High Level Panel’s remit and expertise. On 3 June 2021, the High Level Panel submitted their amicus curiae brief, which can be read here. The High Level Panel are represented by members of the High Level Panel, Professors Dario Milo and Can Yeginsu. The High Level Panel is of the view that the present case holds considerable significance as an opportunity for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to address, once again, a fundamental question of principle: whether or not criminal defamation can properly co-exist with the protections for a free press under the American Convention system. The High Level Panel’s submission makes a strong case against the criminalisation of defamation as it stands both in Ecuador and across the Organisation of American States. The High Level Panel hope the analysis and submissions provided will assist the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in its deliberations in this important case.